Thursday, August 14, 2008

Grayson Offers To 'Talk It Over'

It’s probably fair to say that Grayson Hugh’s association with pop stardom could be described as a hit and run affair. The Connecticut born singer/songwriter came from solid musical stock as it were, and was a classically trained pianist from an early age. Like so many other teens he turned to popular music, exploring such divergent styles as gospel, African tribal, jazz piano and avant garde. He spent a good part of his 20s working as a pianist for hire, which supplemented his income whilst trying to establish a tenable solo career. In 1980 he released a little known self titled album, but it would be almost a decade before he would burst on to the pop music scene during 1989 with his album ‘Blind To Reason’ (OZ#26/US#71).

The album featured a very mildy appealing mix of soul/R&B/ballad tracks, but its strongest song was by far the smooth soul-ballad ‘Talk It Over’. It was a perfect platform to highlight Grayson Hugh’s rich, soulful vocal tones (very Sam Cooke like). The song hit the U.S. charts in June ‘89 and talked its way all the way to #19, but it was Australia that gave Grayson Hugh his only top 10 hit. ‘Talk It Over’ debuted in August ‘89 and peaked at a lofty #3, eventually spending six months inside the charts. The promo clip was an ingenious little affair, featuring the singer and vocal ensemble trading lyrics from inside suitcases (thinking about it, that promo clip is probably the most memorable thing about Grayson Hugh’s pop career). Olivia Newton-John had also released her own version of the song entitled ‘Can’t We Talk It Over In Bed’. It must have been mildly satisfying for soul crooner Hugh to have been the one to score a hit with the tune.

The follow up ‘Bring It All Back’ was a quality track but didn’t capture the interest needed to boost it any higher than #89 in Australia and #87 in the U.S. (though it did peak at #9 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart). Grayson Hugh’s last flirtation with the pop charts was in early 1990 with the song ‘How Bout Us?’ which was a cover of the old Champaign hit, featuring Hugh in duet with Betty Wright (who scored a string of hits during the 70s, the biggest being 1971’s ‘Clean Up Woman’). ‘How Bout Us?’ peaked at #15 on the Adult Contemporary charts in the U.S., reaching #67 on the mainstream Hot 100 chart. The song wasn’t from the album ‘Blind To Reason’ but rather featured on the soundtrack to the motion picture ‘True Love’.

Grayson Hugh recorded the follow up album ‘Road To Freedom’, produced by Chic’s Bernard Edwards, which was released in 1992, but failed to attracted any market interest, despite receiving rave reviews from a number of high profile music reviewers. Two of the albums tracks, ‘I Can’t Untie You From Me’ and ‘Don’t Look Back’ were personally chosen by director Ridley Scott for inclusion in his film ‘Thelma & Louise’, prior to the album’s official release.

A shake up at Hugh’s record label MCA, saw the singer dropped from the label’s roster. Hugh continued to write and perform live but eventually decided to get a real job and took up a music teaching position at Berkley College of Music in Boston. At time of press Grayson Hugh has just completed work on an album of new material entitled ‘An American Record’. The album, which is yet to have a release date, will be his first in over fifteen years.

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